on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
by the Russian Federation
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 30 April 2013
at the 1169th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (hereinafter referred to as “the Framework Convention”),
Having regard to Resolution Res(97)10 of 17 September 1997 setting out rules adopted by the Committee of Ministers on the monitoring arrangements under Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention;
Having regard to the voting rule adopted in the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10;1
Having regard to the instrument of ratification submitted by the Russian Federation on 21 August 1998;
Recalling that the Government of the Russian Federation transmitted its State report in respect of the third monitoring cycle under the Framework Convention on 9 April 2010;
Having examined the Advisory Committee’s third opinion on the Russian Federation adopted on 24 November 2011, as well as the written comments of the Government of the Russian Federation received on 25 July 2012;
Having also taken note of comments by other governments,
1. Adopts the following conclusions in respect of the Russian Federation:
a) Positive developments
While the situation remains exceptionally complex due to the heterogeneous nature of national minorities in the Russian Federation, the Russian authorities continue to apply a mainly flexible and pragmatic approach towards the recognition of national minorities and the scope of application of the Framework Convention.
Steps have been taken to ease the access to temporary residence and work permits through amendments of the Federal Law on Migration and Registration of Foreign Nationals and Stateless Persons and of the Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens. Substantial efforts have been made to reduce the number of stateless persons in the Russian Federation.
The authorities continue to support the organisation of numerous cultural events of national minorities throughout the country. There also continues to be a large selection of newspapers and publications prepared by national minority organisations, including in minority languages.
A comprehensive Concept Paper on the Sustainable Development of Numerically Small Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East was adopted in 2009. It sets objectives for the improvement of the socio-economic situation of these peoples until 2025. An action plan to implement the Concept Paper was also adopted, with financial allocations earmarked from the federal budget.
The Criminal Code was amended in 2007 to enlarge the list of offences for which the motivation of ethnic, racial or religious hatred is to be considered an aggravating circumstance. The racist motivation of offences is increasingly acknowledged by law enforcement officials and the number of racially-motivated crimes started to decrease in 2011. Additionally, guidelines were issued in 2011 by the Supreme Court on prosecution for “extremism” with a view to limiting misuse of the Law on Countering Extremist Activities
Some resolute measures have been taken to investigate and prosecute offences committed by far-right and neo-Nazi groups. The authorities have also taken action to combat racism and intolerance in society, both at federal and regional levels; various campaigns against racism and for increased respect for cultural diversity have been launched in this context.
A Federal Investigative Committee was created in 2010 to investigate human rights violations committed during the conflicts in Chechnya, including those allegedly committed by law enforcement officials. Substantial efforts were made to promote the return of displaced persons to the North Caucasus.
Steps have been taken to put an end to the practice of denying enrolment in schools of pupils of unregistered and/or stateless families. There continue to be opportunities to study in and of many of the minority languages spoken in the Russian Federation, in some cases as from pre-school education onwards.
A Consultative Council of National Cultural Autonomies was established at federal level in 2006. Interethnic and interreligious councils have also been created in a large number of regions and consultative bodies for indigenous peoples have been set up in some regions, such as Khabarovsk.
A Comprehensive Action Plan on Socio-Economic and Cultural Development of Russian Roma was adopted at federal level in February 2013 to better integrate Roma communities and improve their situation in the field of employment, education, health care, housing, as well as to preserve and develop Romani language and culture.
b) Issues of concern
Despite the existence of anti-discrimination provisions in Russian legislation, there is a need for the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation covering all spheres of life and containing a clear definition of discrimination. An independent and specialised body dealing solely with the issue of discrimination should be set up and should also conduct extensive monitoring of the situation in the field of discrimination and raise awareness among society of discrimination-related problems. The current mandate and limited resources of the Federal Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office do not enable this body to perform adequately these important tasks.
Persons belonging to minorities, in particular persons originating from the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as Roma, continue to face widespread discrimination in areas such as access to employment and housing and general intolerance and hostility against “foreigners” is exhibited with increasing openness. Forced evictions of Roma without adequate alternative accommodation continue to take place in a number of regions.
The system of residency registration remains problematic and discriminatory in some regions, due to administrative barriers and, at times, corruption and discriminatory attitudes of law-enforcement officials. Consequently, there are still a number of unresolved cases of statelessness in various regions, including in the Krasnodar Krai. Due to the obstacles faced in access to registration and work permits, migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuses. Persons originating from the Caucasus and Central Asia experience selective and disproportionately frequent identity checks by the police and are very vulnerable to police corruption and other abuses, including, in some cases, disproportionate use of force.
Despite the fact that extensive public support is provided for cultural activities of persons belonging to minorities, there is a lack of support for activities other than cultural ones. The procedures and criteria for the allocation of financial support lack transparency and there is a need for more effective involvement of minority representatives in decision making on funding allocation.
The implementation of the Concept Paper on the Sustainable Development of Numerically Small Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East and of the related action plan is, reportedly, only slowly progressing. Moreover, concerns have been expressed regarding recent changes in federal laws governing the use of natural resources (including hunting, fishing and the use of land) that undermine the right of indigenous peoples to preferential, free and non-competitive access to land and natural resources.
Despite steps taken by the authorities, the number of racially-motivated offences remains alarming, targeting in particular persons originating from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Asia and Africa, as well as Roma. Expressions of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are also frequently reported, as well as instances of interethnic clashes, sometimes fuelled by local politicians and the media. There is an increasing use of xenophobic and racist rhetoric by some politicians and the reaction of the authorities to racist statements has not always been adequate. Media disseminates prejudice, sometimes hate speech, regarding some minority groups, such as persons from the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as Roma.
Persons and NGOs active in the field of human and minority rights face serious problems in the exercise of their rights to freedom of association, expression and opinion, despite amendments of the law on NGOs in 2009. When voicing concerns about minority rights protection, they sometimes face prosecution under the legislation against extremist activities.
Despite the existence of federal legislative guarantees for equality among the different languages of the Russian Federation, the overall climate appears not to be conducive to the use of minority languages in daily life, including in official settings and on topographical signs. In particular, the use of minority languages in urban centres appears to be rapidly decreasing, even for persons belonging to minorities within their own territorial formation. In addition, the amount of television and radio programmes in minority languages is decreasing in some regions.
Roma children continue to face serious disadvantages in the field of education, including denial of registration of Roma pupils whose parents lack identity documents, and placement in separate classes or schools, with reportedly very low quality of education. Existing federal guarantees concerning minority language education are often not reflected in relevant legislative frameworks at local level and implementation varies greatly. The ongoing process of “optimisation” of schools has resulted in the closure of various schools with instruction in and of minority languages, further limiting opportunities in particular for dispersed minority groups.
Despite legislative changes introduced in 2009, there is still no obligation for the authorities to consult national cultural autonomies, including the Federal Council of National Cultural Autonomies, on issues of concern to them. It is regrettable that the activities of national cultural autonomies are limited to the sphere of culture in a narrow sense, particularly in view of the fact that the representation of persons belonging to national minorities in elected bodies remains limited. Mergers of territorial formations have sometimes resulted in more limited opportunities for minority communities to participate effectively in public affairs and to have their concerns duly taken into account.
Representatives of indigenous peoples regret their lack of effective involvement in decision making on industrial development of their traditional territories. Moreover, their participation in socio-economic life remains significantly lower than the Russian average, and health indicators continue to be alarming.
2. Adopts the following recommendations in respect of the Russian Federation:
In addition to the measures to be taken to implement the detailed recommendations contained in sections I and II of the opinion of the Advisory Committee, the authorities are invited to take the following measures to improve further the implementation of the Framework Convention:
Issues for immediate action:2
- ensure that regional and local residency registration regimes comply with federal legislation and are implemented in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner and that the right to appeal is guaranteed for all persons; registration must not be made a precondition for accessing fundamental rights;
- ensure that all instances of alleged police misconduct, abuse and violations of human rights are promptly and thoroughly investigated, prosecuted and effectively sanctioned and that the persistent practice of “ethnic profiling” is eliminated; intensify measures to increase awareness and training of the police on equality and non-discrimination provisions and on human rights in general;
- take more targeted measures to prevent, investigate, prosecute and sanction effectively all instances of racially motivated offences; condemn firmly all expressions of intolerance, racism and xenophobia, particularly in politics and in the media; redouble efforts to combat the dissemination of racist ideologies in the population, particularly among young people;
- increase opportunities for persons belonging to national minorities to learn and speak their languages and closely monitor the implementation of relevant legislation; take measures to promote respect for linguistic and cultural diversity and increase the presence of minority languages and cultures in all areas of daily life;
- intensify efforts, including financial, to implement the objectives contained in the Concept Paper on the Sustainable Development of Numerically Small Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East, in close co-operation with the persons concerned; take further steps to ensure that representatives of indigenous peoples are closely consulted on all issues of relevance to them; ensure that the aim of promoting the sustainable development of indigenous peoples is not jeopardised by simultaneous legislative developments that undermine their preferential access to land and natural resources.
- adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that covers all fields of law and provides effective protection from discrimination in all its forms; consider establishing a specialised and independent body to combat all forms of discrimination and racism;
- take measures to promote full and effective equality of persons belonging to national minorities in all spheres of life, in particular regarding persons originating from the Caucasus and Roma; pursue efforts to eliminate remaining cases of statelessness and ensure that legal remedies are available to appeal decisions concerning citizenship applications deemed discriminatory, including for persons without documents or established citizenship;
- in light of the comprehensive action plan adopted in February 2013, eliminate the persistent practice of forced evictions of Roma settlements without offering alternative accommodation or adequate compensation and put an end to the separation of Roma pupils in schools, promoting their access to mainstream and quality education;
- ensure that the funding available for the support of cultural activities of minority communities is allocated according to clear criteria and is accessible to all interested minority communities through transparent allocation procedures;
- step up efforts to prevent and adequately sanction human rights violations in the North Caucasus ; combat religious intolerance and promote respect for diversity in order to restore a climate of security, mutual trust and tolerance in this region;
- take resolute measures to ensure that the constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion are strictly respected and effectively protected everywhere in the territory of the Russian Federation;
- take all necessary steps to ensure that the rights to freedom of association, expression and opinion are fully respected; ensure that the Law on Countering Extremist Activities is implemented in a non-discriminatory manner and is not used to hamper the activities of persons and groups advocating legitimate concerns of persons belonging to national minorities and the protection of human rights;
- facilitate access of minority media outlets to sources of public funding available to the media; provide additional resources to support the training of journalists and media professionals working in minority languages or on minority-related issues;
- take additional measures to create a climate that is more conducive to the use of minority languages in daily life, including in official settings, in line with the provisions of Article 10 of the Framework Convention; ensure consistent implementation of federal guarantees on the use of minority languages on topographical signs;
- guarantee the effective availability of minority language education for persons belonging to minorities, notably through effective implementation of existing federal legislative guarantees; step up efforts to promote respect for cultural and linguistic diversity as well as education to tolerance and inclusiveness at school; take additional steps to disseminate comprehensive and adequate knowledge on persons belonging to national minorities in textbooks and in schools in general;
- ensure that effective consultation mechanisms are in place to provide for the regular and sustainable involvement of persons belonging to minorities in all issues concerning them; take steps to ensure that the interests of persons belonging to national minorities are duly taken into account in the preparation of territorial mergers;
- accelerate the implementation of measures aimed at improving the socio-economic situation of persons belonging to numerically small indigenous peoples, particularly as regards access to the labour market and health services.
3. Invites the Government of the Russian Federation, in accordance with Resolution Res(97)10:
a. to continue the dialogue in progress with the Advisory Committee;
b. to keep the Advisory Committee regularly informed of the measures it has taken in response to the conclusions and recommendations set out in sections 1 and 2 above.
1 In the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10 on 17 September 1997, the Committee of Ministers also adopted the following rule: “Decisions pursuant to Articles 24.1 and 25.2 of the Framework Convention shall be considered to be adopted if two-thirds of the representatives of the Contracting Parties casting a vote, including a majority of the representatives of the Contracting Parties entitled to sit on the Committee of Ministers, vote in favour”.
2 The recommendations below are listed in the order of the corresponding articles of the Framework Convention.